Victorian Poetry, Europe, and the Challenge of Cosmopolitanism

Christopher M. Keirstead


Literary Criticism/European/England
276 pp. 6x9

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The author recommends the following links:

Victorian Poetry Network

North American Victorian Studies Association

Victorian Poetry

The Armstrong Browning Library

Nineteenth-century Scholarship Online (NINES)


“Impressive in its scope and flexibility, Keirstead’s project discusses seven major Victorian poets, engaging such challenging hybrids as Arthur Hugh Clough’s epistolary satire in hexameters, Amours de Voyage (1858) and William Morris’s Norse saga, Sigurd the Volsung (1876). This range provides ample opportunity for Keirstead to demonstrate his formidable erudition. . . . Keirstead is at his strongest when he illustrates poetry’s special capacity to negotiate between individual, national, and international interests.” —Victorian Studies

“In his first book Christopher M. Keirstead emerges as a seasoned scholar and traveled citizen of the world of nineteenth-century studies.” —MLQ

“Here is an example of first-rate scholarship and criticism that makes important contributions to academic discussions of cosmopolitanism, a topic in the forefront of literary and cultural studies today. Christopher M. Keirstead’s analyses of the writers and their works under study is discerning, cogent, and imaginative. Together they mount a perceptive, highly persuasive argument on several important topics related to cosmopolitanism and the role of literature in a global world.” —Beverly Taylor, professor of English and department chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Christopher M. Keirstead’s new account of Anglo-European poetics adds to our understanding of Victorian literature and culture, specifically in terms of a significant cosmopolitan idea of Europe that points to the future of Britain, and it helps us to better understand the importance of the genre of the long poem in the Victorian era.” —Clinton Machann, professor of English at Texas A&M University

The scope and complexity of the encounter with Europe in Victorian poetry remains largely underappreciated despite recent critical attention to the genre’s global and transnational contexts. Providing much more than colorful settings or a convenient place of self-exile from England, Europe—as destination and idea—formed the basis of a dynamic, evolving form of critical cosmopolitanism much in tune with attempts to theorize the concept today. Christopher M. Keirstead’s Victorian Poetry, Europe, and the Challenge of Cosmopolitanism synthesizes the complex relationship between several notable Victorian poets, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, and A. C. Swinburne, and their respective attitudes toward Europe as a cosmopolitan whole. Examining their international relationships and experiences, the monograph explores the ways in which these poets worked to reconcile their emotional and intellectual affinity for world citizenship with their British identity.

This book reveals how a diverse range of poets sought to resituate the form within a broad European political and cultural frame of reference. At the same time, a strong awareness of the difficulties of sustaining genuine, transformative contact between cultures permeates the work of these poets. The challenge of cosmopolitanism thus consisted not only in the threat it posed to entrenched assumptions about what was normative, natural, or universal but also in the challenge cosmopolitanism posed to itself.

Christopher M. Keirstead is associate professor of English at Auburn University.